With the Detroit Lions going deep into the NFL playoffs, fans (and local media) find themselves playing catchup mode on the 2024 offseason. But the NFL waits for no one and the first big event of the NFL Draft kicked off this past week, as teams and analysts flocked to Mobile, Alabama to watch Senior Bowl practices.
With practices complete, the Senior Bowl event culminates in an All-Star game set to be played on Saturday (February 3) at 1 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
Here’s a look at 5 players the Lions, and their fans, should be keeping an eye on.
Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo
6-foot-0 1⁄2, 195 pounds
While most of the focus on college football secondaries has centered around players in the SEC and Big 10, Quinyon Mitchell has quietly been hanging around in the discussion as a potential top prospect.
With elite man-coverage and ball skills, along with a physical nature as a tackler, Mitchell is a perfect fit for the Lions’ scheme and approach to defense. As a result, it should come as no surprise Mitchell was on my first Draft Watchlist article of the season, back in September.
This week at the Senior Bowl, he cemented himself as a first-round draft pick and is in the conversation to be the first defensive back off the board come April.
Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell is the best defensive player at Senior Bowl & this is the best rep of the week! pic.twitter.com/SOBJeZGLlH— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 31, 2024
There’s still a long way to go in the draft process, but it wouldn’t be at all shocking if Mitchell was CB1 on Detroit’s draft board.
The Lions need at corner is extremely evident, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Detroit get aggressive this offseason in finding a top-tier player to fill a starting role. That could include general manager Brad Holmes looking to pull off a Jameson Williams-like trade to go up and get Mitchell.
T’Vondre Sweat, NT, Texas
6-foot-4 1⁄4, listed from 346 to 362 pounds (didn’t weigh in at Senior Bowl)
Another glaring hole in the Lions defense is on the defensive line and T’Vondre Sweat could be just the man to fill it, literally.
The Lions prioritize stopping the run, and would prefer to keep Alim McNeill at the 3-technique—he had to do more nose tackle work late in the season as the Lions adjusted their approach—and Sweat immediately solves both of those problems for Detroit.
Sweat’s 92.0 run defense grade from PFF was the highest in the Nation and it shows up on film on a regular basis. Pairing Sweat up with McNeill would give the Lions 700+ pounds of run-stuffing bulk that would feed into their top priority on defense.
#Texas NT T'Vondre Sweat #93 has brute power at 360 lbs, but he has some foot quickness too! Clogs up the run and gets after the QB.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 9, 2023
Demolished the center last wk. Day 2 NFL prospect to watch tonight vs. Alabama. pic.twitter.com/4QPpt0EFYE
Jackson Powers-Johnson, IOL, Oregon
6-foot-3 1⁄4 , 334 pounds
Both of the Lions starting guards are pending unrestricted free agents, and the organization may be looking to find a long-term replacement/backup for All-Pro Frank Ragnow, meaning the Lions could, and should, be in the market to add to their offensive line in this draft class.
Powers-Johnson played center at Oregon but he showed his versatility in Mobile this week by also taking reps at both guard spots. A player with the ability to line up at all three interior positions would give the Lions some Graham Glasgow-like availability, which as we have seen in the past can be extremely valuable.
A strong run blocker with growing pass protection skills and tremendous athletic ability, Powers-Johnson's stock is on the rise. He entered the week considered a top-50 pick but could leave Mobile in consideration for a late first-round pick. Grabbing an offensive lineman at pick No. 29 wouldn’t be overly sexy (to most), but the last offensive lineman Detroit picked in the 20s was Ragnow, so, food for thought.
I cannot say enough say impressive @oregonfootball OL Jackson Powers-Johnson has been. Dominating at center and guard. Wins consistently with power, but here he shows the patience and quickness, too.— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) January 31, 2024
Not sure he’s lost a 1-on-1 rep all week pic.twitter.com/wC1T5FWPN5
Christian Haynes, G, UConn
6-foot-2 1⁄2 , 318 pounds
If the Lions are looking for an interior offensive line player who also has the grit to mix things up in the trenches but the poise to keep his head, take a look at this practice rep from Christian Haynes from earlier in the week.
I was right behind the DL when this happened. Christian Haynes has that dawg in him. He shouted back at Jordan Jefferson, “if you’re scared go to church”!pic.twitter.com/1HvioKBSzD— Full-Time Dame (@DP_NFL) January 31, 2024
There are probably not many draftniks who are casually watching University of Connecticut football on Saturdays in the fall, but that’s what makes events like the Senior Bowl great. A clip like this will send analysts looking for information and rushing to get eyes on what Haynes has done in college.
Known for being a stout run-blocker because of his power and technique, he shows the ability to leverage opponents with a slightly lower frame and long arms. Haynes has almost 50 starts at right guard under his belt and when watching film on him, he may remind you of former Lions right guard Larry Warford.
Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan
5-foot-10 1⁄2, 186 pounds
With Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams locked into starting roles in 2024, traditional logic says that the Lions should be looking for a WR-X with size and power. But the Lions prioritize speed amongst their offensive skill player and Roman Wilson is loaded with it.
Wilson has more than just speed though. He is a polished route runner who sets up defenders with unique footwork—hesitations, stab steps, etc—and uses his athleticism to get separation quickly. Look at this rep against Mitchell, where a subtle hesitation step (right leg) forces the defensive back to adjust/buckle, and then Wilson makes a tremendous reception, getting his knee down to complete the NFL process of the catch:
Post-practice competitive period. Catch of the day by Roman Wilson. pic.twitter.com/1TU8QUehPb— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) January 31, 2024
A cross between Packer’s Jayden Reed (from Michigan State) and Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett, Wilson can live on the outside in the NFL with the range/athleticism to be used in a variety of ways on offense.